Daisy Fletcher gets involved in another murder in Carola Dunn’s Gone West. Invited to go out to lunch with a school friend, Daisy learns that Sybil Sutherby, a widow whose husband was killed during the war and who has to support her daughter in a good school, has been working as a “secretary” for a writer. Humphrey Birtwhistle had spent ten years in the 1890’s Wild West in America, where he met Ruby, his wife. Now he has made a living by writing Westerns under a pseudonym, which Sybil initially just transcribed. But three years earlier, Humphrey fell ill with severe pneumonia that took a year to recover from, so while Humphrey came up with the plot lines, Sybil wrote the books, and it turns out she has been a much more successful writer, leading to a dramatic increase in sales. But since that bout with pneumonia, Humphrey has never been the same. Sybil suspects someone is doing something to Humphrey to make him lethargic and unable to work beyond creating plot points. Could one of his family members be doping Humphrey in order to keep the sales up with Sybil’s writing? Sybil convinces Daisy to go with her to visit Aerie Farm in Derbyshire to see if she can snoop out the truth.
There, Daisy meets the family and their guests, but she doesn’t see anything unusual. She visits the hydro (a kind of natural spa in England that utilizes naturally hot mineral water as treatments for people with illnesses) near Aerie Farm and the town, where she sees Lorna, Humphrey’s sister, coming out of the chemist shop. But Daisy doesn’t see it as suggestive enough to keep her in Derbyshire, so she makes plans to return home to Alec and her twins. But then that second night, Humphrey goes to bed, but when Ruby checks on him, she finds him dead. The family doctor, also the police surgeon, refuses to sign a death certificate because he can’t find a reasonable explanation for the death. Knowing that Daisy is the wife of a detective chief inspector of Scotland Yard, the doctor brings that up, causing the local police to call in Alec.
Of course, Alec is unhappy at finding Daisy in the middle of yet another case, especially that she came to snoop without telling him. He works with the local Detective Inspector Worrell, who has joined the ranks of police eating out of Daisy’s hands. The team gets to work investigating, but they also have trouble finding out anything.
The title Gone West is a double entendre, as Humphrey spent ten years as a cowboy and silver miner in America’s wild West. But also the preface points out that the term in England means to die, so Humphrey went west in both meanings.
This book was another fun Daisy book. If you haven’t read any Daisy Dalrymple books, you don’t have to start with the first book and can start with any book, such as this one. Daisy has a special character, making people confide in her, while Alec has to put up with her.
I do sometimes get tired of the repeated sayings, which include “Daisy’s guileless blue eyes” that lure people to tell her their deepest secrets. She has her “own idiosyncratic form of Pittman’s shorthand” which only Daisy can read. She is always getting in trouble for “meddling,” even when other people with her get commended for their assistance. Detective Constable Ernie Piper always has “an endless supply of sharpened pencils.” These are others like them get a little tiring.
The plot of this book involved an intriguing premise that I found creative and interesting. I didn’t guess the murderer until the person was revealed either. The characters are fun, but the recurring characters have little new details to develop them, and I wish I’d seen more of Alec’s staff. The main characters at Aerie Farm had some diversity, but overall, they got a little tiresome. Myra, an orphaned relation of Humphrey’s family, is a real stereotype of the “bright young things” who go out into society.
I liked the performance of Lucy Rayner on the audio version of the book. She created strong accents for the American Ruby, the Irish suitor of Myra, and the Scottish doctor and other Scots in the vicinity. The voice she gave Myra got a like little shrill and annoying at times. But mostly I was happy with the performance.
Gone West is not the best of the Daisy Dalrymple books, but any Daisy book is a delight to listen to. The material prior to the murder gets a little tiresome, but it gets better once the murder takes place and Alec shows up. I give the book four stars.
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